ISRAEL IS FAMILY
Dear Friends and Family:
Juca and I love to stay at a small hotel called the Eden in Talpiot on Jerusalem’s south side. From there we can walk down to Baka, our old neighborhood, or further to the restaurants on Emek Refaim. In the evenings it is beautiful to walk nearby on the Tayelet which overlooks the entire city, old and new, as well as Abu Tor and east into the desert.
This year we seemed to be catching the 172 bus on Derech Hevron almost every day to travel downtown to Ben Yehudah Street. One day we jumped on the bus as unusual, never expecting to experience a scene from “The Russians Are Coming. The Russians Are Coming.” Soon after we got on, the driver announced that because the Russian President Alexander Putin was visiting Jerusalem at that very moment, the government had closed all of the main streets going downtown. He announced that he would get us as close as he could. It was funny that no one seemed to think that this was too unusual; we got on the bus expecting to go someplace and it simply was going to take us someplace else. The driver couldn’t tell us exactly where he would let us off. Although Israelis often yell and complain about any little thing (like the woman who gave the driver hell for stopping a bit up the block from her usual spot), at this major change, it was no problem, and all seemed to accept that we were not going to end up downtown. Oh those pesky Russians.
We finally stopped down near the Jaffa Gate of the old city, quite a distance from where we thought we would be getting off the bus. But just before we stopped, Juca noticed an old man who was quite upset and confused by this change in route. Juca asked him if he would like to get off the bus with us so that we could help him. He was a 92 year old American who had made Aliyah because his son and grandchildren were now in Israel. He spoke no Hebrew, was wearing a WWII. U.S. Navy Vets cap, and was trying to reach the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem (we were nowhere close).
We all got off of the bus, and were slowly making our way up the street when a cab driver approached. Strange things happen in Jerusalem. Once I saw an Arab kid wearing an Olin-Sang-Ruby tee shirt. (I couldn’t find out how he had gotten it as he spoke no Hebrew.) So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see that the cabby was wearing a Chicago Cubs cap. Did it matter to him that our beloved Cubbies were almost already out of the race and it was just the end of June? I imagine not. He probably didn’t even know who Chicago’s North side heroes were. Nevertheless, I immediately noticed the Cubs cap and commented to him in Hebrew that I liked the cap and that it was my team. The cabby wanted fifty Shekels to take the old man to the synagogue. Our companion refused him saying, through us, that it was too much money and that he couldn’t afford it.
So up the street in the hot sun we trudged; up Rehov Yaffo, toward downtown. About two minutes later we heard that same cabby yelling at us. He called out “Hey Chicago, Chicago” (he pronounced it She-caa-go, not the correct way, Chi-caw-go… but I digress). Of course he got our attention. When he caught up to us he said that he would just take the old man to the synagogue. When I told him that he would have to take care of the gentleman, not just give him a ride, his reply was priceless. With hands outstretched and palms up, giving me an isn’t-it-obvious look, he said, “C’mo Abba Sheli, C’mo Abba Sheli.” " As if he were my own father, as if he were my own father.”
You see, Israel is family. Things like this happen there.